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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum

Obit: Truman Gibson, Who Fought Army Segregation

Truman Gibson, Who Fought Army Segregation, Is Dead at 93
Published: January 2, 2006
Truman K. Gibson Jr., who fought racial discrimination in the Army in World War II as a high-level adviser in the War Department and later became a powerful pro boxing promoter, died Dec. 23 in Chicago. He was 93.

His death was announced by Unity Funeral Parlors of Chicago.

Mr. Gibson, a Chicago lawyer, worked within the federal government to end segregation in the armed forces. He often operated out of public view at a time when other black figures like A. Philip Randolph, the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Walter White, the N.A.A.C.P. leader, were highly visible in civil rights struggles.

Mr. Gibson was chief adviser on racial affairs to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson from 1943 to 1945. He sought to persuade the Army to use black troops in combat and investigated complaints from black soldiers facing indignities and sometimes violence during their stateside training.

"It was complete, absolute segregation," Mr. Gibson told The Columbus Dispatch, in Ohio, in 2002. "The training facilities were in the South. The attitude was that Southern officers understood 'those people.' White bus drivers in military towns were deputized and armed. That was their approach to handling Southern black soldiers. I tried to put out fires. We were dealing with the killing of black troops. I visited most of the camps and most of the nations where there were black troops."

Mr. Gibson sought to enhance opportunities for black soldiers to become officers, at one point conferring with Jackie Robinson, already a well-known athlete and soon to break baseball's color barrier, when he was experiencing problems in obtaining a commission while an enlisted man at Fort Riley, Kan.

In December 1946, Mr. Gibson was named to President Harry S. Truman's nine-member civilian commission studying the future of universal military training; he was the panel's only black member. In May 1947, when it issued its report, the commission urged an end to segregation in the military. Fourteen months later, Truman issued an executive order that led to desegregation of the armed forces.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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